Freelancers are a distinctive group. We work on our own terms and have the unique opportunity to create the career and lifestyle of our choosing. But what if we could take it one step further? What if we could combine our career and our lifestyle in such a way that it would improve our bottom line? What if our "career lifestyle" actually maximized our profits and made us a more compelling hire for prospective clients?
Five years ago I made the decision to transition from being the owner of a national business to being a freelancer. However, from the onset I knew that I wanted to do things a little differently. The stories I was hearing from some freelancer friends about "scrounging for work" to "make ends meet" was a lifestyle opposite the one I was looking for. But I knew that the framework had potential.
What I determined to create for myself was a career lifestyle that not only took into account my priorities, talents and finances but actually leveraged those three components in order to land work that was a good fit for me - and the client. Here is what I have learned about accomplishing this seemingly impossible feat with ease:
- Know Your Priorities. I mean really know them in the same way that you "know" your name and social security number. The key here is not just having a general idea of what matters most to you, but having a specific, written and rank-ordered list of priorities that matter to you in each key area of your life (e.g. career, relationship, finances, education). Each priority should be followed with a rational justification that briefly explains why this priority is and should be on your list. If you can't explain it, then perhaps you need to rethink it. Create a master list of the top two priorities from each category - this list is a reflection of your core values and should be at the heart of your search process as you seek out freelance work going forward.
- Resist the Urge to Take the Job. As you head out into the marketplace, be sure to keep your priorities at the front of your mind and only seek and accept work that aligns well with what matters most to you. While it's tempting to accept every job that comes along, especially those offering an attractive rate of pay, it is this very decision point that will define your career lifestyle and ultimately allow you to shine and excel as a freelancer (as I explain below).
- Work on Purpose. Happy people inspire others, and from a business perspective they are the most attractive hires around. So in order to stay competitive, to have that "special something" that gives you an edge, you have to enjoy your work and feel satisfied with the terms (e.g. time, money, flexibility, training opportunities) you have agreed to with yourself. Reject the attitude of "earning a living." Instead, embrace the concept of "working on purpose" which radiates from people who make the conscious decision to do so. Have you encountered one of those naturally inspiring people in the workplace? If so, you know that they are compelling figures that attract people to them. Take note, because those are the very people who get called back for work in the future. After all, when it comes down to it people hire people. And when given a choice, a decision maker often chooses a freelancer based on three factors: 1) can you do the job?; 2) will you enjoy doing the job?; And, 3) can we tolerate working with you while you do the job? The more readily the decision maker can answer "yes" to all three of these questions when considering you, the more likely you will get the job - and want it!
- Ask For Referrals. The biggest "light bulb moment" for me was early on in my freelance career. What I learned was that asking for a referral, even in an informal way, often leads to new work with little effort. Perhaps this seems pedestrian, but it was a defining lesson that caused my business to transform from red to black - and then some - in no time at all. In my experience, clients often assumed that I was booked solid and hadn't considered referring new business to me. Over time I learned that asking for a referral, either internal or external, at just the right moment can generate new leads in an instant or open the door to work in the future.
- Make Time To Remember Why You're Doing This. The best way to stay committed to anything is to reflect on the "why," because it motivates you to keep going, right? How often do you do this as it relates to your freelance career? Why are you a freelancer? If your rationale is along the lines of "to pay the bills" then you are "earning a living" instead of taking advantage of the very thing that every 9-to-5er dreams of - the freedom to live and work on your own terms! Schedule time on your calendar every quarte to look at your career lifestyle and determine if it continues to align with what matters most to you. After all, life is ever-changing and so reflecting, revising and repositioning is not only natural - it's critical.
Working on purpose can transform your freelance career into a lifestyle and give you an edge over the competition. Reinvent your life - today!
- Create a specific, written and rank-ordered list of priorities that matter to you in each key area of your life. Each priority should be followed with a rational justification that briefly explains why this priority is on your list. Create a master list of the top two priorities from each category. This list is a reflection of your core values and should be at the heart of your search process as you seek out freelance work going forward.
- Seek and accept work that aligns well with what matters most to you. While it's tempting to accept every job that comes along, especially those offering an attractive rate of pay, it is this very decision point that will define your career lifestyle.
- Reject the attitude of "earning a living," and instead embrace the concept of "working on purpose," which radiates from people who make the conscious decision to do so.
- Ask for a referral, even in an informal way. This will often lead to new work with little effort.
- Schedule time on your calendar on a quarterly basis to look at your career lifestyle and determine if it is still aligned with what matters most to you. After all, life is ever-changing, which means that reflecting, revising and repositioning is not only natural - it's critical.
Dr. Kristin Cardinale is the author of The 9-to-5 Cure: Work on Your Own Terms and Reinvent Your Life. She is a serial entrepreneur, seminar speaker, career coach and columnist. Connect with her online at www.kristincardinale.com or follow her on Twitter at @WorkOnPurpose.